The 16th Annual Thailand Bird Fair
by Rose Lacson
It was a week before the 16th Annual Thailand Bird Fair when I recieved a text message from Tommy asking if I would like to join WBCP Execom Gina Mapua to represent the club in Bangkok. Surprised and hesitant, I said a “yes”. And so my plane ticket was booked A.S.A.P. Excitement filled my mind thinking of the birds that awaited me (and also fear that I might starve myself because Thai food is known to be spicy hot!)
And so comes November 24……Thailand, here we come!
We arrived at Suvarnabhumi International Airport two hours ahead of pick up time and waited for the other delegates to arrive. Finally we were on our way to the hotel and were soon waiting at the lobby to be brought to the welcome dinner.
Bird Conservation Society of Thailand (BCST) Conservation Manager Tao Thattaya and BCST CEO Nancy Lyne welcomed all of us in a floating restaurant. Spicy delicious food was served but I was still cautious eating every dish served because the chillis might eat through me! Cruising for almost two hours at the Chao Phraya River amazed me and other first-time guests. We were treated to colorful illuminated lights and displays of the surrounding buildings, bridges, temples, shops, and restaurants on both sides of the river plus other floating restaurants passing by.
The venue for the Thailand bird fair was set at the H.M. Queen Sirikit Park, a botanical garden in the Chatuchak District of Bangkok. The park covers an area of 0.22 sq.km and is part of the larger Chatuchak park complex. It was named after Queen Sirikit of Thailand on her 60th birthday. Local and international delegates from Royal Society of Protection Nature (Bhutan), representatives from Cambodia, Wild Bird Society of Taipei, Malaysia Nature Society, Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka, Bird Conservation Society of Thailand, and the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines set-up booths (all in white color) for visitors and park goers before the opening of the event.
Since it was not yet a busy day, and local exhibitors said people usually come late in the afternoon, Gina encouraged me to explore the area. Geared with binoculars, a camera, and hat, I started walking around the park, all the time looking here and there trying to see birds new to my eyes. While walking, a group of photographers caught my attention. I quietly squeezed in and asked what they were up to. One guy told me that there’s a migrant: a Ferruginous Flycatcher. As I continued exploring the park with lots of greenery and trees, I saw a blue bird on a tree from afar, not the usual blue bird I see! I took a shot and later identified it as an Indian Roller. I saw Common Mynas, an Asian Brown Flycatcher, Asian Koels, and heard different bird calls but could not identify them. I walked back to the WBCP booth and met Eid, the BCST volunteer assigned to us. Thanks to Eid, Gina and I were able to take a sneak peek of the weekend market just across the park. To interpret and guide us through Chatuchak market was a friend, Dona Peñaflorida, who teaches in Thailand. Dona is from Tacurong and plans to be there in May. She has started promoting the next Philippine Bird festival in Tacurong City already.
That night, instead of taking us out to dinner, BCST gave us money and let us loose in Jatujak Green for our dinner. This is a night market to one side of the park with many food shops featuring all sorts of dishes, from whole grilled fish to coconut ice cream. The parking lot nearby was filled with little shops selling all sorts of things. You can be done with your Christmas shopping here and still have some money left over, that’s how low-priced the items were. Gina and I had a “safe” Thai dinner – a minimum of hot chilies – and then wandered around until it was time to meet with the group to go back to the hotel.
Day Two of the fair was much of the same. Not very many people in the park despite the cool weather. Gina asked Nancy, BCST CEO, why this year’s bird fair was so low key, and was told that BCST could not get any definitive answer from the palace regarding King Bhumibol’s cremation nor of King Maja’s coronation. The cremation occurred just two weeks before the bird fair and we even saw the river-side stage on which it was carried out. No word on the date of coronation yet.
The farewell dinner was filled with fun, laughter, witty conversation, and food being passed from one table to another. Traditional Thai food was served at the Ban Khun Mae restaurant and we had our fill of true HOT Thai food. Even the Bhutanese, who include chili in their daily food, said the dishes were very hot. Afterward, the whole group happily posed for a photo outside.